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4 people to avoid at your next Innovation Conference

7 06 2010

[tweetmeme]It’s conference season again, and I find myself in the enviable position of being able to attend many of the top conferences on Innovation, Collaboration and Social Media and just soak in the rootin’, tootin’ and high faluttin’ knowledge that pervades the atmosphere at a good conference.

This week (June 8-9th) is no exception –  I’ll be at the World Innovation Forum in New York City (#WIF10 if you’d like to follow that conference on twitter), a conference with superlative speakers, and an equally interesting attendance – and if I’ve learnt anything from nearly a decade of going to innovation conferences, it’s that you can learn just as much from the people attending a conference as you can from the speaking panel. Yet, in the same way that a speaker can turn out to be a bad penny at a conference, so can your interactions with fellow attendees.

Over the years, I’ve started to realize that I’m now able to process who’ll be interesting, and who won’t, pretty quickly and thought I’d share my observations with all of you, so that you can tell the “Makers” from the “Fakers” at the conferences you go to.

Innovators come in all shape and sizes, so pointing out physical attributes to look out for won’t work – that guy dressed in the 60s suit with the bell bottoms in front of you could end up being Kodak’s leading patent holder. The sharply dressed young lady with the expensive looking briefcase, could be the newbie software salesperson for a start-up populated by teens only just learning to spell the word “innovait..innovato…inovatii”…ah, you get my point. So the only way to truly figure it out is by listening to them and watching for certain key phrases that indicate it’s time to lace up your running shoes and head to the auditorium door for a quick getaway.

1. “Sammy Satisfied” – If anyone comes across as being too smug, too sure of themselves, and too happy with their own achievements in innovation, it’s time to back away. Why? Because Innovation is driven by a lack of satisfaction in the status quo.

Top innovators are always looking to change things because they know that taking time to sit back on their laurels is just giving the competition time to catch up. Find someone who’s satisfied with what they’ve achieved, and you’ve found someone who maybe used to be an innovator. Test them – ask them “Yes, but what are you doing that’s new, now ? “ and watch them nervously start to sweat.. The good news? If you find yourself talking to a Sammy, you can probably just wander off whilst he’s in mid-sentence – he’s unlikely to notice anyway.

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2. “Tommy the ToolMan” – usually leads with “so, what kind of tools are you using internally?” or words to that effect. Even worse is when Tommy can’t stop talking about the tool he’s using – the back end, the front end, the features and functionality…urrghhh! Treat potential Tommys with the same suspicion you would if someone randomly asked you “so what car do you drive?” as you stepped out the door of your workplace. Why? Because tools don’t really matter.

Let me clarify – tools are important, having the right tool will turbo-charge your innovation program (especially if you have ambitions to embrace collaborative innovation processes), and having the wrong tool can just as easily sink it. But let me now tell you the secret of successful tools from someone with over 7 years of experience with one of the leading software companies in the field, and had a big hand in developing the innovation management software market to where it is today…….. Tools don’t really matter. Processes do.

Ultimately there are only two things that a good innovation tool really needs to do (feel free to copy this into your next RFP):

1) Be flexible enough to support whatever collaborative process you are trying to put in place to meet your business goals

2) Stay out of the way (be reliable, embrace good collaborative practices, not force you to work around the software to achieve your aims, etc)

It’s not a long list, but you’d be surprised as to how few vendors can fulfill those two basic requirements – mainly because a lot of vendors develop software that is technically excellent and/or visually pretty, but overlook the intricate ways in which humans actually want to and need to interact with each other. My former software clients weren’t successful because of the tool the sales guy sold them – they were successful because of the way they used it. If you’re talking to someone who suggests to you otherwise – run.

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3. Peter Private – Peter talks in short phrases, measuring his words and being careful with what he says. He thinks he’s like a corporate James Bond, protecting the secrets of his company by sharing little, and listening intently. Peters are inherently worried about letting the “cat out of the bag” – about saying too much and getting into trouble. Talking to a Peter is not only frustrating; it’ll be fruitless too, as you’ll get no benefit from it.

You see, innovation is all about sharing – it’s about openness – it’s about embracing the world as a potential knowledge source – but to get, you need to give too. I’ve found that people who are truly successful in the innovation field embrace this principle across all of their interactions with people. Being open is like a bug or a virus – once you realize that the best ideas are frequently elsewhere, you’ll be on a mission to find them everywhere all the time.

You don’t have the time to establish trust and sign an NDA in the short time allotted at a conference – so if you find yourself speaking to a Peter, then it’s time to make your excuses and fake a bathroom break to relieve that irritated colon of yours.

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4. Christopher Clueless – With a subject as increasing in popularity as Innovation, it’s no wonder that conferences are filling up with charlatans jumping on the bandwagon to try and make a quick buck – and Chris is no exception. Having probably read one or two books on the subject and with no practical experience at all – he comes to the conference armed with a series of “innovation catchphrases” to give you advice with and lull you into a false sense of security/trust/interest.

My favourite of these: “Innovation should be everyone’s job” – probably one of the dumbest things ever said on the innovation circuit – usually used to eschew the presence, or need for, innovation leadership. Whilst true, to an extent, that innovation should be a part of every employee’s business life, it still needs to be someone’s responsibility in order to ensure success.

Hear that, or any of a myriad of well known phrases (you’ll usually know if they turn up during the conference by the stifled giggles coming from the bloggers’ gallery above you) and it’s time to excuse yourself from the proceedings to search for that 7th cup of coffee to take you through the rest of the afternoon.

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The trick to getting the most from the speaker panel is easy – listen carefully and glean insights that you can take back to your business.

The trick to getting the most from the attendee panel though is to talk openly and talk to a lot of people – spread yourself out, meet new people at every break, collect a ton of business cards and build a network . A network that will probably not include Peter, Tom, Chris nor Sammy though.

What other types of people do you find at conferences? Share in the comments below!

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The Blogger’s Hub Mark II – The World Business Forum 09 and Social Media Innovation

5 10 2009

3904269880_4453a1e4a8Thanks to the good people over at HSM, I’ve been invited to take part in the Blogger’s Hub at tomorrow’s World Business Forum – something I’m really quite excited about for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, look at the lineup – where else in the world can you go to and see Bill Clinton, George Lucas and Gary Hamel all on the same agenda? The topics being addressed are equally diverse – ranging from Leadership, to Branding, to  Economics, to a simple “Conversation” (well you didn’t think George Lucas would address the audience on something like “Quantitative Analysis Techniques for the 21st century” did you?).

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However, and not to take away from the power of the content itself, one of the main attractions for me this year will be to see how HSM has evolved its’ “Bloggers Hub” concept. Whether or not HSM were the first to embrace Social Media (SM) and the concept of an “alternative press core” as part of its conferences I don’t know – but I think I can safely say that they’re the current leaders when it comes to integrating SM into their conferences. You certainly can’t fault them for lack of commitment to the concept – and it’s reaping some great results from them in terms of market exposure and attendee response.

Regular readers will remember a piece I wrote about the Blogger’s Hub at the World Innovation Forum – also run by HSM – where they first tried out the concept.  Inviting a core group of innovation bloggers, tweeps, and writers of various sorts to their event – they then set up a unique experience with reserved seating, dedicated WiFi channels, powerpoints, press packs, and more for this group. It was a bold statement at the time of HSM’s belief in Social Media – and one that was then rapidly adopted by many of their competitors to varying degrees of success.

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So needless to say – I’m fascinated to see how they’ll push the boundaries again with their second go at it. Already they’ve done far more pre-conference than in the past. Having established an already pretty active hash channel on twitter (#WBF09 in case you want to follow the live tweets on Tuesday and Wednesday), a LinkedIn Group, a Facebook page, and several networking opportunities both before and during the conference specifically for the Blogger’s Hub members – they’ve done an admirable job of embracing what I think are the key components of a successful corporate SM campaign, namely:

1)   Open a channel to your target market and give them a means by which to communicate with each other – through the various linkedin, twitter, and other channels that they’ve created, HSM have provided the potential community with a set of tools to use. More critically, rather than attempt to create proprietary channels; they’ve built mini-channels within already established platforms so as to reduce the barrier to entry to new community members.

2)   Enthuse the community – Membership to the Blogger’s Hub has certain perks: Special invitation-only channels; exclusive networking opportunities; special press packs and media libraries; the specially reserved and equipped area at the conference itself; and more – all contributing to participants feeling “special” and thus more enthusiastic about the entire experience. Just as with any PR – giving a channel exclusivity to content gives it a better chance of being picked up

3)   Take an active role in the community – throughout, HSM has not only used the various channels as a way to put out marketing messages, but crucially, they’ve taken an active part in the online discussions – thus getting adopted by the community not as a sponsor, but as a member – and as a member, credibility and acceptance is much greater.

blogger_hub3Having covered all these points admirably, George Levy and his colleagues at HSM have ensured that come the Wednesday evening close of the event, not only will they have driven a modern day PR campaign that would be the envy of most corporates out there, but they’ve also created an active community that they essentially “own” and are a trusted member of. How many companies active in the SM space can say that? Talk about creating an asset!

Will there be more surprises for us when we get there? I’m willing to bet so – so make sure you track #wbf09 over the next few days and I’ll make sure to tell you all about it as the event unfolds!

More Resources

  • I’ve created an RSS Feed of Blog Posts on the World Business Forum from Blogger’s Hub participants
  • If you’re not an active Twitter user – you can follow all the action from HSM’s dedicated page
  • If you are an active Twitter user – make sure to follow #wbf09 to see the whole thing unfold live
  • Here’s a full list of the Blogger’s Hub Participants so you can follow each individually:

Wall Street Journal | Kelly Evans | @Kelly_Evans
Wall Street Journal | Paul Glader | @PaulGlader
The Huffington Post | Shahien Nasiripour | @huffbusiness
BusinessWeek.com | Reena Jana  | @RJMAC
Reuters | Felix Salmon  | @felixsalmon
Newsweek | Katie Paul  | @newsweek
asmarterplanet.com | Adam Christensen | @smarterplanet
Jossey-Bass on Leadership | Carolyn Carlstroem | @josseybassbiz
mashable.com | Ben Parr | @benparr
billgeorge.org | Zach Clayton | @bill_george
The Big Picture | Barry Ritholtz
Purse Pundit | Jacki Zehner
Execunet | Lauryn Franzoni | @LaurynFranzoni
Execunet | Robyn Greenspan | @Robyngreenspan
Execunet | Joseph McCool
Execunet | Jeffrey Sherman Thompson
1 to 1 Media | Don Peppers | @donpeppers
Path Forward International | Julie Lenzer Kirk | @YourBoot
Path Forward International | Renee Lewis | @chiefcatalyst
Thought Bright Blog | Robert McNeill
Working Knowledge | Andrea Meyer | @AndreaMeyer
Working Knowledge | Dana Meyer | @WorkingKnowledg
Business Boomer | Arabella Santiago | @businessboomer
Information Playground (EMC) | Steve Todd |  @SteveTodd
Social Media Blog Stu | Stuart Miniman | @stu
Insights on Leadership and Employee Engagement | Michael Lee Stallard  | @MichaelStallard
Innoblog | Renee Hopkins | @Renee_Innosight
Business Strategy Innovation Blog | Braden Kelley | @innovate
HSMInspiringIdeas.com | Graciela Gonzalez Biondo | @HSMAmericas
Gizmodo.com | Joanna Stern | @gizmodo
Time Leadership | Jim Estill | @JimEstill
Goodness500.org | Michael Mossoba | @creativemichael
All Things Workplace | Steve Roesler  | @steveroesler
Orrin Woodward Leadership Team | Orrin Woodward | @Orrin_Woodward
Influential Marketing | Rohit Bhargava | @rohitbhargava
GDGT | Peter Rojas | @peterrojas
Brain Leaders and Learners | Dr. Ellen Weber | @EllenfWeber
Brain Based Biz | Dr. Robyn McMaster | @robynMcMaster
Triple Pundit | Jen Boynton | @triplepundit
Triple Pundit | Nick Aster | @triplepundit
Triple Pundit | Ryan Mickle | @triplepundit
Marketing Thoughts Blog | Ken McArthur | @kenmcArthur
Training Magazine’s Training Day Blog | Margery Weinstein | @margeryw
Awake at the Wheel | Jonathan Fields | @jonathanfields
Hot Mommas Project | Kathy Korman Frey | @chiefhotmomma
Hot Mommas Project | Amber Hunnicut | @HotMommasIntern
Youth Entrepreneurship Lady | Julie Kantor | @NFTEJuliek
Vault.com | Philip Stott | @VaultCareers
Vault.com | Linda Petock | @VaultCareers
Economist Mom | Diane Lim Rogers | @EconomistMom
Hank Wasiak | Hank Wasiak | @hankwasiak
Chris Brady’s Leadership Blog | Chris Brady | @rascaltweets
The Complete Innovator | Boris Pluskowski | @bpluskowski
PR Mama | Stephanie Smirnov | @ssmirnov
Ramblings from a Glass Half Full | Terry Starbucker | @Starbucker
Conference Hound | Jordan Enright-Schulz | @conferencehound
Conference Hound | Bruce Carlisle | @conferencehound
Successful Blog | Liz Strauss | @lizstrauss
Collaboration Solutions in Industry Segments | Bob Preston | @BobPrestonCCO
5 Blogs Before Lunch | David Allen Ibsen | @daveibsen
Angry Bear | Dan Crawford | @angrybearecon
Angry Bear | Ken Houghton | @angrybearecon
Tree Hugger | Matthew McDermott | @matmcdermott
Fast Company Expert Blogger | Seth Kahan | @SethKahan





“Follow Me to Profit” or…Business Strategies for a Twittering World

29 05 2009

follow_FullTwitter continues to be the fastest growing social media platform at the moment – but that growth seems to be primarily led by individuals with varying degrees of success and sustainability. By now I’m sure you all have several friends who have tried Twitter – some love it, others can’t see the point of it  – which doesn’t tend to help its credibility as a business tool.

Your business arsenal?The truth of it is that it can be a very valuable tool in your business arsenal – BUT – unlike other social media tools, it delivers little value until you put a significant amount of effort into developing it. Now when I say “developing” – I don’t mean in the classic “programming lines of code” sense – but rather, in order to be useful to a business – you need a defined strategy, and a sustained input from your part before it begins to yield results back. What that input is, and how long it takes you to put in enough input to yield an output, really depends on which of the main strategies you decide to pursue – and as with most applications that work on the establishment of information flows – there are two main strategies: Push and Pull.

tug-of-warThe Pull strategy for Twitter is simple.  It revolves around an understanding that what Twitter can provide to you is an unrivalled personalized information source.  Whatever niche information requirements you have – chances are, there are people out there posting tweets on it. Find them, follow them, and eventually your information feed begins to deliver a constant source of valuable data – be it important headlines, links to interesting articles, relevant quotes, allowing you to follow conferences remotely, etc etc – the more careful you are in selecting the people you follow – the more relevant that data feed becomes.  In pure Pull strategies – you don’t care how many people follow you – it’s irrelevant and secondary to achieving a quality information flow to your desktop.  For those of you considering this strategy – Don Smith has written an excellent Twitter 101 Primer for you.

pushThe Push strategy is a little more complex – as what you’re trying to do is be read rather than necessarily do the reading. Maybe you’re a company with a product message to distribute, maybe you’re a consultant trying to build up your personal brand, maybe you’re a store with product specials to sell – whatever you are, the basic concept is that you have a message that you want people to see and read.  Here, the name of the game is to amass followers – to get the largest possible following to actively subscribe to, and read, your feed.  Whilst that sounds easy – it’s far from that – you have two big challenges ahead of you:

1)   to get people to want to subscribe to you and

2)   To get subscribers to pay attention to your tweets.

It’s no easy feat to convince thousands, or even millions of people to want to subscribe to you. Unless you’re a chique celebrity like Ashton Kutcher, a regular media outlet like CNN, or a cult brand like Whole Foods or Twitter itself (To see a list of the most followed on Twitter, go to http://twitterholic.com/ ) – you’re not going to get a million people seeking you out to follow you just by being present online and twittering any old rubbish you feel like.  That means you have to do it the hard way.

At the recent World Innovation Forum – I had the unusual opportunity to poll a bunch of fellow veteran social media mavens and active twitter users (“twerps” is apparently the preferred group name currently by the way) on what they look for when they decide to follow someone new. The results were interesting with the top three answers being:

1)   User name – is it someone I know, want to know, or have heard of in the past.unknown-person

2)   Profile – What do those 160 characters you use to describe yourself on the right hand pane of your Twitter page say about you and what you do? Is it of interest? Are YOU of interest?

3)   Your last 20 tweets – what kind of information have you been posting? Is it all self-serving nonsense? Is there value in your flow? How often do you post? Do I want to read more?

So on consideration of these three points – people make the decision as to whether or not to follow you. So how does that translate into an actionable strategy?  Here’s how:

1)   Understand who you are and what social role you want play online – Decide upon your “social brand” – are you posting as a corporate entity or as an individual?  Is this an official feed or a casual conversation?  What’s the ultimate goal of this interaction? Is it to sell? To build a community? To build a brand? – use the answers to those questions to come up with a username that expresses your intent and your identity.

2)   Describe yourself and your interests – the profile section tells people who don’t recognize your username why they should join you. Who are you really? What are your interests? What kind of posts do you find interesting and will you be posting yourself?

3)   Provide value to your community – In order to get people to follow you, and to stay following you – it’s ultimately about content. It’s about providing value to your following. It doesn’t matter if you post several times an hour or once a month – make those posts worthwhile reading, and people will stay subscribed to you.

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Don’t tell us about your trip to the bathroom, or the pain of not getting upgraded on your trips across the Atlantic, or that you’re on your way to get your kids from school – trust me, no one wants to hear that on Twitter – use your Facebook account for that kind of interaction (incidentally – by now you should understand that the social media space is complex – and there are different tools for different uses. For example – LinkedIn is all about connecting to business connections and maintaining business networks; Facebook is all about staying connected to personal friends and family; Twitter is about establishing an information flow. Each of these is a different tool, and whilst it’s possible to link your status updates and tweets – it’s usually a mistake to do so in my opinion as what constitutes “useful and valuable content” is very different for each network – and to ignore that when posting, will lead to others ignoring your postings. Ultimately, the point of all social networks is to be heard! Hey – who ever said this was going to be easy?).  It doesn’t even matter if the content is not yours ultimately – even a series of posts with links to interesting content can be deemed valuable.  Just keep people interested and reading!

hiv_virusThere’s another reason to provide valuable content, especially on Twitter – Twitter is a “viral community”. That is, it works on a viral process of message dissemination to the community at large. You post something of value, I see it, and I “Re-Tweet” it – meaning I pass it on to my own subscriber list with appropriate attribution to the original poster. I get kudos points from my community for passing on something valuable, and you get exposure to my subscriber list who may well decide to subscribe to your postings too (assuming you’ve followed the three steps above to create an interesting profile page!).  There’s also exists a general concept of mutual following – You follow me because I post good info, and in return I’ll probably follow you too to see what your feed is like. Of course, if you then post a load of rubbish, I’ll probably end up deleting you from the list of people I follow – but that’s up to you to establish the value to me as a reader 🙂

So keep posting value add to your twitter feed, keep following people in your target market as well as those who decide to follow you, and be an active participant in the conversations – and you’ll soon amass a growing “following”. That then gives you the opportunity to slip in marketing, sales, or branding messages into the flow to not only a large audience, but – if you follow the rules above – an actively listening audience – the nirvana of corporate sales and marketing folks!

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These are of course, very general strategies – and several other variants exist – I’d love to hear what YOUR Twitter strategies are – or tips you may have for “pushers” and “pullers” – share away!








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